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The Significance of Hindu Festivals

There is an innate connection between Hinduism philosophy and festivals. Apparently, on the surface, festivals do have a religious connotation to them, however, with a deeper understanding of the socio-economic connections of the festivals to the other aspects of society it can be established that Hindu festivals are the reflection of not only the revered philosophy of Hinduism but also a reflection of the social bond between people and their faiths and beliefs. Looking beyond the myths and stories surrounding the Hindu religion, the worldviews, philosophies and other important connections with life itself can be made. The present research essay aims at establishing the thesis that Diwali, the festival of lights is significantly connected to the economic growth and also to the hope of a huge number of people in India. In this current discussion, it is important to keep in mind that this research essay will only analyze the connection of the economic aspirations of the people related to the festival of Diwali in India. To establish the thesis statement, the paper will draw ideas and information from secondary sources such as research articles and journal articles. 

To properly understand the interconnections between the economic aspirations of the people of India and the festival of Diwali, first, it is imperative to establish the connection between the significance of the festival within Hinduism philosophy and the Hindu religion. In the simplest sense, the word “Hinduism” is a philosophy, a way of life and also a religion. However, the usage of the word Hindu or Hinduism should be done with caution. Keeping in mind the fact that even no two individuals follow the same teachings of Hinduism, the usage of Hinduism or Hindu as a religion cannot be used as an umbrella term. From the Historical perspective, Hinduism is the amalgamation of philosophical doctrines and religious practices. Irrespective of religious or philosophical views, India is a country that celebrates and engages in festivities throughout the year. 

To establish the connection between the economic aspirations of people and the festival of Diwali, the understanding of the economic significance of the festivals in India is of utmost importance. In a general sense, Hindu festivals are more often basically related to the celebration of the cycle of life (on the surface, the cycle of the year). In the discussion of the Hindu festivals, it is essential to factor in the landscape of the Hindu calendar which is quite different from the Georgian one. The Hindu calendar is based on the Hindu Cosmological ideas. To furthermore clearly establish the socio-economic connection of the Hindu festivals an example of a festival can be looked at. The Harvest festival, known by various names (Onam, Pongal, Nabanna and others) throughout the Indian subcontinent is a celebration of the new harvest every year. The connection is very clear, as India is a heavily agriculture-dependent country; celebrations around the new harvest can be cited as the amalgamation of the faith of the mass and the economy (also heavily dependent on agriculture). This connection will help to further delve into the origin and connections between the festival of Diwali and the socio-economic factors operating in India. Diwali, as a festival is celebrated throughout India. With the passing of time, the religious connotations of each and every festival celebrated in India have also gained other connotations like social gatherings, increased connectivity among people and exchange of gifts as a token of love and solidarity. All of the Hindu festivals positively contain religious rituals and rites performed in front of a deity or in some cases nature. However, in India, as festivals are celebrated throughout the year, the economy and trade are heavily connected with festivals and celebrations. A deeper understanding of the origins of the festival of Diwali and the myths and beliefs around it will help in the establishment of the thesis statement made in the initial part of the essay. 

The Socio-Economic Connection of Hindu Festivals: An Example

For gaining an understanding of the origin of the festival of Diwali, all the aspects of the festival need to be taken into account. According to the etymological explanation, the word Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” meaning “Row of Lights”. The etymological explanation of the naming of the festival clearly indicates the connection of the festival with lights and also the hope of people. According to popular belief, Diwali, as a festival indicates the triumph of good over darkness and evil (Narayanan). Traditionally, Diwali is associated with Vedic Aryan sacrifices. This sacrifice combines three rites, namely, Parvana, Ashwayuji, and Agrahayani. Ashwayuji sacrificed for Indra and Sita, the goddess of agriculture, and Agrahayani for the end of the year. Parvana sacrificed for the ancestors. Accordingly, Diwali is also celebrated in honour of the three reasons stated above. Discussion on the mythical origin of the festival will help in gaining a deeper understanding of the roots of the festival and also the significance of the festival for the people of India. The timing of the celebration is heavily related to the Hindu Cosmology and the Hindu calendar. Diwali, according to the Georgian calendar falls in late October or early November (Sanford). According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali is celebrated in Kartika (a month in the Hindu calendar).

The festival has its roots in several mythical stories including the two Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In this context, it is important to note that, Diwali is a festival celebrated across India based on popular beliefs and historical celebrations. Before delving into the details of the historical celebrations, a short introduction to the mentions of the festival in religious and secular scriptures is imperative. According to the legend in Ramayana, Diwali is celebrated to mark the joy of the return of Rama from 14 years of exile. This connection clearly establishes the theme of hope, light and festivities in connection with the festival in India. Rama’s return to Ayodhya has a special significance in the religious context of the country. It not only is conveyed as a myth or a story but also reflects the spirit of hardship, perseverance and hope (Kelly). According to the opinion of Rambachan, while Hinduism largely believes in the oneness of God, however, the diversity among the believers is a particularly significant reflection of the nature of the Hindu philosophy. According to the views of Dianne, Diwali and the celebrations around it can be equated with the celebration of Halloween and other festivals around the world which celebrate the triumph of light and goodness over darkness and evil. Historically, Diwali has been celebrated across India (in fact around the world) through a five-day festival. Several rites and rituals are observed as part of the festivities related to Diwali. Rangoli (Art made on the floor), firecrackers, sweet delicacies and many other things are particularly related to the celebration of Diwali (Brennan and Dahmer). Irrespective of the religious affiliation or belief, people across the Indian subcontinent observe Diwali in the hope of driving the darkness away from their lives. The historical celebration will further guide the research essay in making the connections between the economy and the festival of Diwali.

The Festival of Diwali and Its Economic Significance

Before establishing the interconnections between the festival of lights, Diwali and the economy, it is important to understand the general connection between festivals, celebrations and the economy. The first important aspect to remember is the relations of trade-related to the celebrations and festivities. It is a known fact that due to particular needs during a festival, sale of goods like LED lights, decoration materials and many other things gets a boost. Since India is a country that is immersed in celebrations related to religious or other festivals, the trade of things like flowers, incense and other materials needed for rites and rituals are heavily related to the festivities (Kumar et al.). An important insight into the interconnection between the economy and the celebrations around Diwali can be highlighted by mentioning a recent incident. After India was just starting to recover from the jolt of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities opened up the worshipping places across the country, even before opening the educational institutions. With paying minute attention to this decision by the government, the co-dependent relationship of the economy and religious celebrations can be understood. According to the opinion of Gaur and Chapnerkar, the trade boost around the celebrations of the Hindu festivals around the calendar has a particularly significant role in the revitalization of the economy at large.

The economy is connected with the festivities of Diwali on multiple levels. As all the festivals celebrated in India are not only rich with background stories but also are colourful, this particularly attracts tourists around the world, particularly in the times of those festivals. Diwali is also one of the many festivals that by the richness of its celebrations attract a huge number of tourists from around the world. Jauhari and Munjal in their research article explain in detail the intricate connections between the immense potential of the festivities in India in supporting the economy. According to the authors, fairs that gather around the festivals and celebrations have the immense opportunity for revitalising the economy via the increase in trade during the festivities. Also, in this connection, the potential for an increase in income for people who are dependent on daily wage through trade. In a research article Srikanth and Raghu Ram categorically highlight the seasonal effect in trade in India in relation to the festivities. The article specifically studies the case of celebrations of Diwali in India.

On the occasion of festivals such as Diwali, Ramzan, and Christmas, people follow the religion buy many things like clothing, footwear, food items, etc. Many people start new businesses on the day of festivals, and many people purchase capital goods like vehicles, residential houses, etc., on the occasion of festivals. A large number of people participating in these economic activities on the day of the festival or on the days closer to it will lead to an increase in demand for goods and services in the country, and as a consequence, the production of goods and services will also increase. Revenue of firms will increase when they produce more and sell more, and profits will increase as well, with profits being distributed to various stakeholders. The owner of the firm will receive a share of profits in dividends, and labourers will receive a share in bonuses. Consequently, the purchasing power of the people will increase as a result of an increase in the money supply. Tax revenue will also increase at festival times. As a result, festivals are able to demonstrate their influence on the economic climate of a country. Being able to see the economic potential of the festivities around Diwali can significantly help in establishing the multiple layers of hope Diwali, as a festival and celebration of lights in the lives of people in India (Bagchi and Baranda). Also, it can be said that Diwali, as the etymology and historical celebrations indicate, is a festival that reflects the hope and perseverance of the people of India. The financial profit earned the job opportunities created during the festivities and the celebrations can clearly be cited as examples of an important layer of hope for all people. Beyond the religiosity and the rituals of the festival of Diwali, in the context of India, it truly emerges as a light, a hope and an opportunity for growth for all.

The Mythical Origin and Significance of Diwali

An important event in relation to the economic potential of Diwali should be mentioned here. The event known as Mahurat Trading is an event in the Indian Stock Market observed for an hour on the eve of Diwali.  Bombay Stock Exchanges have been observing Mahurat trading for centuries. To start the new financial year on a positive note, Mahurat trading is performed. Stocks purchased on Mahurat trading are often held for a long time, and sometimes investors never sell such stocks. Many people believe that Mahurat trading brings prosperity and wealth throughout the year. On Diwali, stockbrokers perform 'Lakshmi Puja' at the exchanges in the evening, and then they carry out Mahurat trading.  As India is known around the world as a land of spirituality, festivals are an important part of the lives of Indians. The socio-economic environment of a nation can be affected by festivals. Research in this area has demonstrated that festivals can have a significant impact on the economy of a nation (Agrawal, Gupta and Gupta). From this discussion, it is evident that the positive effects of the Diwali festivities on the economy are not constricted to just the level of individual sellers but also affect the market at large. As evident from the connections made so far, it is clear that Diwali is not only by its origin, a festival of hope and light, but also materially it is a hope of new light for the population of India. It is important here to mention that the Diwali celebrations and the economic perspective are at all not connected to the Hindu religion. The celebrations are beyond the constrictions and regulations of the religion. This particular nature of Diwali reflects the true spirit of the people of India as well as the philosophy of Hinduism.

In conclusion to the above discussion, it can be said that while the Hindu festival of Diwali has its roots in the Hindu myths and ancient scriptures, the spirit of Indian people and the immense diversity of the land has enabled the festival of lights also emerge with time, as the light of hope for people in financial terms.

Agrawal, Akanksha, Deepali Gupta, and Sanjay Gupta. "Seasonality and Stock Index Return: A Study of Diwali Festival." Financial Matters in Global Perspective [Internet]. Gwalior: PRESTIGE Institute of Management (2014): 307-11.

Bagchi, Tilak, and Yashpal Baranda. "Celebration of Diwali Festival in Some Bhil Villages of Udaipur, Rajasthan." Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India 67.2 (2018): 239-251.

Brennan, Kathleen, and Jeffrey Dahmer. "Diwali celebrations."

Gaur, Sanjaya S., and Mandar Chapnerkar. "Indian festivals: The contribution they make to cultural and economic wellbeing: A case study of Ganapati Festival." Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (2015).

Jauhari, Vinnie, and Sandeep Munjal. "Fairs and festivals in India: the cultural and economic potential." Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (2015).

Kelly, John D. "From Holi to Diwali in Fiji: An essay on ritual and history." Man (1988): 40-55.

Kumar, B. Sathish, Sheethal C. Rapheal, and L. Krishna Kumari. "The impact of diwali on stock market and commodity market." ZENITH International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 7.10 (2017): 47-56.

MacMillan, Dianne M. Diwali: Hindu festival of lights. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Narayanan, Hema. "The Sacred Pilgrimage." PSA Journal 87.4 (2021): 12-18.

Rambachan Ph D, Anantanand. "The Oneness of God and the Diversity of Religions: A Hindu Perspective." (2016).

Sanford, A. Whitney. "The Hindu Ritual Calendar." Contemporary Hinduism (2004): 123.

Srikanth, Potharla, and M. Raghu Ram. "Economic Impact of Festivals: Evidence from Diwali effect on Indian stock market." Researchers-world: Journal of Arts, Science & Commerce 4 (2013): 27-37.

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